Frank and Virginia Stipek – Mom and Dad

Frank and Virginia Stipek c. 1950 Seattle, WA

I am the oldest of 4 children. My brother was a gifted and accomplished dancer in New York City (Juilliard School). He died tragically at a young age. My dad was an cabinet maker and founded Northwest Millwork serving The Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. He did many projects in Alaska, including the beautiful lobby of natural wood in the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska. Mom was trained in millinery and had many fine hats in her closet. When ‘womens’ hats’ went the way of the old department stores, she was just Mom filled with wisdom and patience. Like myself, my two sisters married Alaska fishermen and live in Alaska to this day.

Although my name is Devita Writer, I sign my work Devita Stipek-Writer in honor of my parents and immensely talented brother Daryl.

Devita Stipek Writer – Brief Biography

Devita Writer, Alaska Painter (Horse Island Studio)

My great grandfather settled in Nome during the gold rush. My grandfather moved to Seattle as a young man.  In 1964, while I was attending art school at Cornish, my grandmother and I traveled to Alaska on the inaugural run of the State Ferry  Matanuska to attend a friend’s wedding in Ketchikan.  It was there that I met my soon to be husband, Alaska fisherman David Kennedy.

Both of my sisters married Alaska fishermen and still live in Alaska, so I guess Alaska is in our blood.

Dave and I raised our family on the boat, in fish camps and fishing towns from Ketchikan to Kodiak.  Eventually we settled in the tiny outer coast fishing village of Elfin Cove where I ran the fuel dock and general store while Dave fished.

Dave disappeared with his fishing boat a week before Christmas 1979.  I moved my family to Juneau.  I had continued to paint and sketch in those early years and now, out of love and necessity, I turned to making art full time to support my young family.

My new husband and I built the cabin on isolated Horse Island and moved there in 1992 after the last child went off to college. At the island I painted without distraction.  This was a period of intense artistic development for me.

I now live and Juneau and at the age of ‘three quarters of a century’ I still work daily at art and can’t imagine doing anything else.

Why I paint alone

The faint smell of oil paint and turps on a chill Alaska breeze, in moments I lose myself to the sound of the sea and seabirds, the salt smell of the ocean. Hue and shadow, pallet knife and brush, all working together, I am focused. Every care recedes and I feel like me again.

In the early 1990’s, at our remote homestead on Horse Island, I painted in isolation without judgement except perhaps for some ideal in my subconscious. I feel extremely fortunate to have had this time alone. This independence was deliciously enjoyable and deeply personal. Lonely but never alone.

Entropy and Oil Painting

(Unfinished Mendenhall Glacier, impasto oil on panel)

The making of this little plein air painting spanned several years and countless evenings watching the sun set over the Chilkat Range. The Mendenhall Glacier is northward.

Shown here partially completed, I will miss it more than most. Birthed as seen above on a glowing evening c. 2005, one “alla prima” perfect painting session along North Douglas Highway.

When a painting goes well my mind is both completely empty and completely focused. I call it being in the Zone. It is a wonderful feeling.

And as will happen to the plein air painter, daylight wains, the weather turns bad, and the partly completed painting is stored in a cardboard box with others. Years later, perhaps by sheer entropy, the partially completed painting emerged from the clutter and landed on the big easel in my studio where I studied it for weeks. August, 2018, I returned to the original location several times to completion.

Painting for me is a contemplation.

Each stroke carefully considered, there is no hurry. Color on canvas. I’m the brush holder.

Along North Douglas Highway. Chilkat range seen in the distance to the west, maybe 50 miles. In the photo I am facing north, the Mendenhall Glacier in the distance, perhaps a dozen miles.

My approach to Plein Air oil painting

My Goal as a Painter

Vision that exists only perhaps in my subconscious, my goal is not to reproduce a scene in detail, as a photograph, rather to capture the convergence of a moment in time, to communicate an essence, to bring the viewer’s own memory and imagination in to play. In this way, in each of my paintings, if I have done my job, there is much more than meets the eye.

Juneau Sunset – Devita Stipek-Writer 2019 (oil on board, en plein air).